Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Spare a thought for Abuse Victims at Christmas

Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat…so please spare a thought…

There will be many families out there throughout this festive season who are suffering all forms of domestic abuse; not just physical but verbal, mental, emotional and sexual. Spare a thought for them and their children while eating your turkey and drinking your sherry.
Fourteen years ago I fled my marital and beautiful family home with my daughter in November 2000. I had been abused on all levels for over twenty years and in a flash of a light bulb I had to get out. And one major reason was I couldn’t play “happy families” around the Christmas table with family for another year. I knew I couldn’t keep my mouth shut anymore; I knew I couldn’t be the model wife and mother; daughter, sister and daughter in law for another painful traumatic Christmas day.

For over twenty years I had been the best host and family member possible. Through all of my pain, hurt, trauma and broken heart I had kept up appearances and been the model wife. That’s what you do, don’t you? I thought you “just got on with it”. I had heard that so often that that is just what I did. I thought everyone’s marriage turned into what mine had turned into. My mother had been married to my dad for over twenty five years and I was brought up to believe that you worked at your marriage; you didn’t just walk away you worked through the difficult and challenging times. My mother’s marriage wasn’t a bed of roses so I thought what I was ensuring was normal.
I had put off leaving my beautiful marital home for years because I didn’t want to be the one to break up my family. I didn’t want to be the one who took my daughter away from her father. I didn’t want to be the one who lost her dream future of “for better or worse, till death us do part”. Marriage for me and my family was, and is, for life and on top of all this I would be the only one in the family to fail and let the family down and be known as a divorcee.

Add to this, when, and if, I left or fled I would have nowhere to go, no money and no job. I was a stay at home mum, no money of my own and didn’t want to involve friends and family. And then add another layer of trauma on top of all this. My confidence and self-esteem were nil, I was depressed and close to a breakdown and a symptomatic alcoholic. For twenty years I had been brainwashed into believing I was worthless, a bad person, no one would want me and I had been systematically isolated from friends and family by my abuser. Where was I to go and what was I to do to ensure my gorgeous daughter was safe, could continue to attend her school and, where possible, suffered as little as possible.

Layer upon layer of abuse had been loaded onto my shoulders and into my heart and psychologically, emotionally and mentally I was at my lowest point. With nothing of my own, not even a car in my own name leaving was, for me like trying, all alone, to move a mountain. And I had no confidence that I was capable of managing alone. So as I said spare a thought for those families struggling to perform and act out Christmas festivities and please stop asking why we don’t leave. It’s not an easy decision or easy to do, no matter what the situation. And no one can make that difficult decision for you. My moment came one Monday morning in a flash and I knew I had to get out but until that moment comes and you are filled with strength please understand the control, coercion, isolation and brainwashing that is systematically used over time to ensure one cannot leave. On top of this add another layer of threats to kill you, your child or one of your family. And once you leave the abuse escalates in a very different form with threats of stalking, finding you and harming or killing you, as well as threats to abduct your child or children. For three years after I fled my abuser harassed, stalked and threatened me. He even attempted to kidnap my daughter from school.
So don’t ask me ever why I didn’t leave earlier, it’s just not that easy or simple for a whole multitude of reasons. And Christmas and festive seasons are one of the most difficult to survive and stomach.

For every last bruise you gave me
For every time I sat in tears
For the million ways you hurt me
I just wanna tell you this
You broke my world, made me strong
Thank you
Messed up my dreams, made me strong
Thank you


Thursday, 4 December 2014

A Teachers Induction at an International School in the Middle East

I awoke last night in the middle of the night after a nightmare that took me back to my time as a British teacher in the Middle East five years ago. I thought I would share with you some of the challenges I faced while working there that still haunt me. Within a month of applying for a teaching position online and a two hour telephone interview (while I was shopping in the supermarket) I was on a plane flying to Dubai to work as a kindergarten teacher in an International British Curriculum school as well as the gifted and talented and special educational needs advisor.

In forty degree heat on a rickety old school bus and after a two hour drive I arrived at my hot and dusty desert destination and was informed I would be collected at seven in the morning by the same rickety old bus and taken to the school for induction procedures to commence. Forty three international teachers had been recruited that year and all were to stay in a hotel until our apartment building was completed.
Now this is where it gets difficult and hard to believe but I want you to listen, believe and realise how challenging the life I was about to embark on was for a white western middle class teacher to comprehend the absolutely extraordinary policies and procedures we had to take on board and adhere to.

After the bone shaking bus ride to the school we arrived in the school parking lot and were ushered into the school auditorium where we were addressed by the senior management board (all of whom were westerners) and our Middle Eastern induction commenced.
As we all sat stunned ,we listened to our bosses in all seriousness inform us, that due to the fact that most women would wear the burka or niqab often accompanied by an eye veil when visiting the school, we would need to work out a comprehensive strategy of recognising the mothers and all female siblings, maids and drivers. They went on to advise that they had some strategies to suggest to us as follows:

Recognising female authorised persons to collect children from our classrooms by:
·         The sound of their voice
·         Their eyes (if you can see them)
·         Their jewellery
·         Their shoes
·         Their handbags
·         Their gait and walk
·         The decorations on their abaya, burka or niqab

As teachers that are trained in safeguarding and child protection, risk assessments and health and safety, we were completely speechless and dumbfounded. The end of the day at our classroom doors became the scariest and most stressful time of day. Each and every one of us was terrified we would let a child go with the wrong parent or someone who was trying to carry out abduction.

While working in the Middle East there were several attempted abductions in schools in the area by men fully covered in the burka or niqab. Thankfully the children in our classrooms went home with the correct family members or authorised collectors but I can honestly say I am glad I do not have to deal with the stress of that experience today.